Irons & Irons Obtains $5 Million Wrongful Death Settlement

Our judicial system covers all bases when addressing personal injury and wrongful death cases. When there is a personal injury case that involves economic damages for medical expenses or the loss of wages, it is covered in the law. Sadly, there are cases where a wrongful death has occurred. The law holds those who caused the wrongful death to be responsible for their actions or inactions through non-economic damages. Attorney Harry H. Albritton Jr. of Irons & Irons P.A. and Attorney Chris Mauriello of Mauriello Law secured a $5 million settlement in a case that illustrates how non-economic damages apply to a wrongful death case. To shed light and dig deeper into non-economic damages, our wrongful death lawyers in North Carolina are sharing insight into the case.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a victim suffered fatal injuries from someone's negligence or wrongful act, it is considered to be a "wrongful death." A wrongful death lawsuit allows surviving family members to look for justice on behalf of a loved one who died due to that act of negligence, carelessness, or violence. In this particular case, it was a commercial truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel.

Some examples of a person who is at fault in wrongful death can include:

  • A driver in a car or truck accident
  • A bartender who served alcohol to a person who then got behind the wheel of a vehicle
  • A doctor or medical professional
  • An owner of a business that failed in the upkeep of their property

The family's representative for the deceased--an immediate family member or an executor of the estate--brings the claim to an attorney who will then negotiate a settlement or take the case to a jury trial. Wrongful death is a civil tort claim that is independent of any criminal charge.

How is a Wrongful Death Compensated?

Compensation in a wrongful death can include both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses are quantifiable and documented.

Some examples of economic losses are:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Wages lost
  • Loss of benefits
  • Future income

Non-economic damages are losses that do not have a monetary amount attached. Punitive damages are a type of non-economic damages that are designed to punish the defendant in cases that are particularly dreadful and flagrant.

Compensation for non-economic losses can cover:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of comfort and companionship
  • Loss of counsel
  • Mental and emotional anguish

How are Non-Economic Damages in a Wrongful Death Settlement Secured?

A plaintiff in a wrongful death case needs to prove two things to successfully pursue their claim.

  • Prove that the defendant is the "cause in fact" of the victim's death. Stated another way, the defendant is the reason for the victim's death. This is generally easy for the plaintiff to prove as it only concerns whether the defendant was directly responsible for the death.
  • Prove "proximate cause." This is more difficult to prove because the plaintiff must demonstrate that the victim's death was a foreseeable result of the defendant's actions and, as such, the defendant should be held liable.

The Value of the Settlement in the Wrongful Death Case of 21-Year Old

In this specific case, a 21-year-old college student was killed instantly when a commercial truck driver fell asleep at the wheel, consequently crossed over the median, and then struck her car in a head-on collision. The defense did admit that the driver was liable, however the company denied any wrongdoing at the corporate level. The driver's defense was that he fell asleep due to being overworked and had been denied time off when he requested it. As Attorneys Albritton and Mauriello investigated the circumstances further, they found ongoing instances of drivers who were overworked, placing countless people at risk in collisions.

The facts of the case showed responsibility, but determining a settlement was a challenge because there was no economic loss. However, there was the issue of pain and suffering for the family as well as the potential of punitive damages. In an effort to arrive at reasonable settlement amounts, the attorneys for the plaintiff relied on focus groups to test possible outcomes. The test groups awarded a wide range of damages, but the one consistent outcome was that the defendants, both the driver and the trucking company, were accountable and punitive damages should be awarded.

Attorneys Albritton and Mauriello felt confident in valuing the case at $5 million and were willing to go before a jury. On August 13, the settlement was agreed upon by both parties, awarding the plaintiff $5 million dollars while both parties agreed on anonymity within the case.

Schedule a Consultation with our North Carolina Wrongful Death Attorneys

If you have lost a loved one due to someone's negligence or wrongful act, we can help. Reach out to Attorney Harry H. Albritton of Irons & Irons P.A. to discuss your case at  919-899-7200 or complete the free case review form.